Opinion

Ranking the Red Sox by All-Star Worthiness

Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (July 15, 2018 – Source: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America)

The Midsummer Classic is around the corner which means Fan Voting for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game has officially begun. If you’re reading this, then you probably have an interest in which Boston Red Sox will and won’t appear in this year’s exhibition game. Some New England loyalists will probably fill out their entire ballots exclusively with Red Sox, which is fine. Other paranoid fans (like myself) might actually leave all Boston players OFF their ballots intentionally in hope of securing a few days of extra rest for the team’s best players. I mean, let’s face it: there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from the annual All-Star festivities in terms of the division standings, while the risk of injuries (and the possibility of subsequently hindering our playoff chances) does exist.

Of course, the most realistic outcome lies somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Every year, each team – yes, even the Baltimore Orioles – gets at least one player representative. How else would both Brock Holt and Steven Wright have an All-Star appearance on their respective résumés? The reigning World Champs will probably send multiple players to Cleveland on July 9th based on a number of variables from performance, to the major market in which they play, to the fact that, well, they’re still the defending champions.

So who makes the cut? It goes without saying that 14 other American League teams have a competing candidate at every position, all of whom are talented enough to earn a starting spot on a major league roster. Beating out the field will be a tall task for any player. I suspect some Sox won’t even come close, while others barely miss the cut as a small handful of Beantown’s best prevail as All-Star selections. This article will focus breaking down the roster into 3 tiers.

NOT EVEN IN YOUR WILDEST DREAMS

Frankly, some active Red Sox should be more concerned with job security than accolades. Particularly in the bullpen, inconsistency and lack of name recognition characterize the depth chart more than anything. The starting rotation also got off to a bumpy start, and while the major pieces of the puzzle seem to have hit their stride, it’s hard to ignore the inflated numbers which reflect a historically bad March/April.

Then there’s the right side of the infield. While the left half looks like one of the best duos in all of baseball, our first and second base situations leave me asking more questions than Lou Costello. Michael Chavis has been great in his debut. He could turn into a future All-Star at either one of these two positions, but he can’t play them both simultaneously, and the fact that he just exhausted his prospect status tells you all you need to know about his 2019 campaign. Simply put, the field is too deep for Chavis to beat out established veterans with better stats based on a sample size of about 2.5 months.

In summary, don’t expect to see these names on the AL roster in a couple weeks:

  • Sandy Leon
  • Steve Pearce
  • Mitch Moreland
  • Brock Holt
  • Eduardo Nunez
  • Marco Hernandez
  • Rick Porcello
  • Eduardo Rodriguez
  • Colton Brewer
  • Matt Barnes
  • Ryan Brasier
  • Heath Hembree
  • Brandon Workman
  • Marcus Walden
  • Anyone else to come out of Boston’s bullpen this season

CLOSE, BUT NOT QUITE

In this category, I’ve included several names who either have already been to an All-Star game or should expect to get the call in the future. It just probably isn’t going to happen this year for one reason or another. As previously mentioned, Michael Chavis has arguably been playing at an All-Star caliber level, but the rookie shouldn’t be expected to overtake worthy names like Whit Merrifield, DJ LeMahieu, and Tommy La Stella who have been producing since Opening Day.

The outfield is another story, as the Killer B’s followed the rotation’s lead in taking their time to get warmed up. It’s great that Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. are finally picking up the slack on offense, but it may be too little, too late for these guys. JBJ is competing with Mike Trout and George Springer (among others) in center, and his batting average, though rising, is still one of the lowest on the entire ballot. After Benny barely missed out on the AL’s final spot last year, it’s hard to imagine he’d claim one this year with less production. Mookie’s 2019 numbers would suggest he’s a fringe candidate as well, but I still expect him to make an appearance, even if it’s not as a starter.

J.D. Martinez is probably the best designated hitter on the ballot. He’s also been dealing with back spasms recently, and he basically gave the Home Run Derby the proverbial middle finger last season. Maybe I’m reaching, but when I compare Martinez’s relative decline (albeit a mild and reasonable one) to Hunter Pence’s resurgence, Nelson Cruz’s potential swan song, and the spectacle that is Shohei Ohtani, it just seems fair to honor someone else with this spot. Also, I kinda like the idea of a pissed off Martinez carrying a chip on his shoulder from July through the end of the season.

On the pitching side, I’m really going out on a limb with this unpopular opinion: Chris Sale doesn’t deserve to make the All-Star team this year. There’s a good chance he will, but his 7 losses and 11 HRs surrendered before the month of June indicate he hasn’t earned it. For as good as he’s been since the calendar changed from April, he was every bit as bad beforehand. He even admitted so himself.

Sale is still the ace of Boston’s staff. He’s still one of the absolute best pitchers throughout MLB, and my personal favorite to watch. I have, and will continue to mock those who thought his best days were behind him in April, but for the sake of determining which American League pitchers belong at the 2019 All-Star Game next month, you must take this April 2019 into account. That alone should absolutely destroy Sale’s chances. (Side tangent: The Cy Young Award is a totally different story. In 2017, voters robbed him of the honor he rightfully deserved by completely disregarding his historic first half after a lackluster September. I expect the same recency bias to work in his favor if he performs well down the stretch this season.)

THE PLAYERS WHO BELONG

  1. MOOKIE BETTS

This has less to do with his 2019 statistics, and more to do with the name on the back of the jersey. When you win MVP and World Series in the same year, on top of the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at your position, you make the next All-Star game, provided you’re not injured.

There’s a reasonable argument to be made that other outfielders have earned a spot with a better 2019 performance, but this is also an entertainment business, and the All-Star Game is a huge opportunity for the league to showcase its best product. Having one of the league’s most decorated names – from one of the league’s most iconic franchises – at this game is a prerequisite.

  1. DAVID PRICE

Again, part of my reasoning behind this decision comes from last year. Price redeeming himself in October and opting into the remaining 4 years of his contract felt like the ending to a movie. Watching him make the AL All-Star team the following year seems like the perfect Epilogue.

However, he’s also earned it on the field this year. Yes, I know he missed a few starts in May, and I’m well aware that he no longer leads the rotation in ERA or WHIP, but if you remove his ugly June 13th outing (which Boston came back to win) against Texas, he’s been phenomenal. With all the notable injured pitchers in the American League (Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Tyler Glasnow; just to name a few) it would make sense for either Sale or Price to make the cut. Personally, I’m going with Price.

  1. CHRISTIAN VAZQUEZ

I was one of Dave Dombrowski’s biggest critics when he gave away former first-round pick Blake Swihart for nothing. While I’m still not a fan of the move, the newfound clarity at the catcher position seems to have done wonders for Vazquez. Known more for his defense behind the plate than his offense, he’s already set a career high in HRs this year, and he has a chance to do the same in the RBI and WAR categories before the All-Star break, provided he stays healthy.

While I would love to see Gary Sanchez waste his energy catching 9+ innings of meaningless baseball, Alex Cora won’t be allowed to do that. As long as another American League catcher has to spend time behind the plate, it might as well be Vazquez.

  1. XANDER BOGAERTS

One of the most consistent and dependable bats throughout the game, the 13th place finisher in last year’s AL MVP voting currently leads the league in doubles and runs scored. He also has more RBIs than any other shortstop in the American League presently, which speaks volumes, given the competition at this particular position.

Even though the game is in Cleveland, Francisco Lindor missed a considerable chunk of the first half. So did Carlos Correa. X-Man’s biggest threats are probably Jorge Polanco and Tim Anderson. That being said, Elvis Andrus, Gleyber Torres, and Marcus Semien have also put up respectable numbers. Hell, even Adalberto Mondesi and Freddy Galvis are fun to watch and put up decent numbers. This positional competition is, to me, the most intriguing. Xander may not earn the nod as starter, but he certainly belongs on the squad.

  1. RAFAEL DEVERS

If MLB ever decided to punish the big market teams by limiting All-Star roster spaces, I would be OK with that. That would definitely be preferable to the current system that cost Boston two first round draft picks in 2019 – one for the amount of money spent on payroll in 2018, and one that we should’ve received as compensation for Craig Kimbrel leaving – but we’ll save that topic for another day. In such a hypothetical scenario, I think the youngest member of the Red Sox is also the most deserving, in my opinion.

For one, he beat out all of his teammates and everyone else in the American League for May’s AL Player of the Month. Not for third basemen only; for ALL position players. He’s hitting the cover off the ball, ranking in the top 3% of the league in Exit Velocity as well as top 6% in Hard Hit percentage and expected Batting Average. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and he’s made noticeable improvements in just about every other offensive metric. If that isn’t enough, he’s stolen 8 bases in 71 games, matching his career total (over 179 games) entering this season.

Perhaps the most impressive stride he’s made is on the other side of the ball. Entering spring training, I was hoping the team would consider giving Devers reps at first base, with the plan of eventually moving him there once Moreland and Pearce were gone, and ultimately taking over at designated hitter for the majority of his career, a la Big Papi. Now, it’s looking like Devers has the floor of a reliable corner infielder, with the ceiling as high as Adrian Beltre’s career, both offensively and defensively. His commitment to conditioning and elevating his game really shows, and for all the criticism he’s taken in his first two year, he deserves just as much credit, if not more, for his offseason transformation.

The Dominican native does it all; he hits the ball in the gaps and over the fence, he holds down the hot corner with a strong arm, and he’s not afraid to run the bases. He embodies not only the talented-yet-griddy Red Sox franchise, but also what it means to be an All-Star caliber major leaguer. It’s time Red Sox Nation send him to Cleveland to put the rest of the league on notice.

Advertisements